So, we’ve played. One scenario, which took two lunch periods, as we needed to suss out the rules.
For the non-tabletop gamers out there, this is a cooperative game. The board game genre is more or less split into games where there is one “winner”, and cooperative games, where all of the players are attempting to achieve a unified goal. Unlike, say, Monopoly or Risk – both where the players win by beating each other… Zombicide is like Pandemic or Arkham Horror. Hm, that probably isn’t helpful for the non-tabletop gamer.
The players are a team, and the opponent is a game “mechanic”; a set of automated rules that govern how the non-player actor in the game operates. In Pandemic, for example, the players are trying to defeat a global outbreak of a highly contagious disease. In Arkham Horror, the opponent is a member of HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, who is attempting to break out of his netherworldly prison and consume the world. In Zombicide, the goal is to overcome a horde of cartoon rabbits. Hah! I kid. It’s the Players vs. the Zombies, of course.
I haven’t played Pandemic yet, myself, but I’m given to understand that it’s a little bit complicated. Arkham Horror is supremely complicated. It’s a definite time sink just trying to get the mechanics of the game turn to go forward, especially if you play with one of the expansion sets. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of complicated games, but one of the reasons I picked up Zombicide is that it’s advertised as a one-hour playing session. With six players! A six player Arkham Horror game can go on for half the night. I’m on the lookout for games that are complicated enough to be interesting enough for my crazy brain, but have simple enough player actions that an 8 year old could play.
Zombicide is a win.
The pacing is great. There are six stock characters that come with the game (you can make your own custom characters), each with slightly different starting skills, such as Slippery (which lets them move freely through a square with zombies).
The players go first, clockwise from first player (which changes each “round” of play). Each player can choose to perform up to three actions; they can move a space, search, open a door (if they have something that lets them open locked doors, such as the crowbar or fire axe, which might cause noise), shoot (which causes noise for firearms), attack with a melee weapon (which might cause noise, depending upon the weapon), trade items with another player, or make extra noise (this can be important later). The actions can be mixed and matched each turn… one turn, you might move three squares (each move taking an action), stand still and shoot three times (each shot taking an action), move once, search, and then fire at zombies several squares away, etc.
The zombie turn is pretty straightforward: if the zombie turn starts with a player in the same square as a zombie, the zombie attacks the player, steals one piece of equipment, and causes a wound. Two wounds, and a player is dead and eaten. If there are three zombies, they’ll do three points of damage, but if there are multiple characters in the square with the zombies, the players decide how to divvy up the damage. For example, if there are three zombies and three players, they can all take one hit, and be wounded, or they can agree that two of the zombies both attack one player, which kills him or her… and then the third zombie (or, to be most accurate, *all* the rest of the zombies in the square) attack the body in a feeding frenzy, and the other two players get off scot free. Fans of the zombie genre can imagine how this can play out: since the goal of the game is for the players – as a team – to complete the mission, sacrificing yourself for the greater good can be rewarding all on its own. If there are no zombie attacks, they move… one square, towards any group of players that they can see.. or, if they can’t see a group of players (or two groups), they go towards the most “noise”. Finally, new zombies spawn at every spawn point. Oh, I forgot, zombies also spawn in every room of every building you unlock for the first time.
The first couple of turns, the players fan out and try and achieve the low-hanging fruit objectives, and slow, walking zombies start to appear at the edges of the board (at least, in the scenario we played). The game immediately starts to change gears, though, because as you kill zombies and achieve the objectives for whichever scenario you’re playing, your characters level up. And when they level up, they get more actions or skills… but the zombies get tougher. You get faster zombies, who move two squares instead of one. And then big Fatties, which come with two Walker sidekicks. Finally, if you get high enough level, an Abomination comes out (think the Boss Zombie from any of the Resident Evil video games). And if you’ve ever used up all the zombie tokens for a zombie type, and a spawn calls for still more of those zombies, instead of manufacturing extra zombie tokens, all of the zombies of that type get an extra turn. So you’re never quite sure that you’re far enough away from that pack that’s been following you…
We didn’t get to an Abomination, but it was a crowded game board. A well-timed acquisition of a Molotov cocktail turned what could have been an ugly interior battle in the building where we needed to acquire the final objective into a ZombieBake. Still, the streets were jam-packed with zombies and the group had to fire and move together. We all made it out.
But it was close. Twice, we could have lost multiple players. I’m considering logging the actions the next time I play and turning into a blog short story, and that’s as good of a recommendation as I can make, really.
A quick game to pick up. Kids can play, I imagine, if you goof it up. Jack has seen the box (pictured above) and is intrigued.
It’s expensive (relatively speaking) as the game itself was a Kickstarter project and had a limited run in its production release, but in a day and age where you’re kicking down $50 for a movie and popcorn, I’m pretty sure you’ll get a few hundred dollars worth of 1 hour gaming sessions, if you’re any kind of board gamer and your group is at all interested in cooperative games. I suspect it’ll make an awesome Christmas gift for a 12-18 year old nephew, in particular, especially if he’s into horror movies and has boardgaming friends.